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Tale of the Unexpected by Lath

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 June 2020

A new setter? We weren’t too daunted by the preamble, though yet again it looked as though there was some elementary numerical work to do in the endgame. We began solving at once and a fine set of clues with very clear definitions which tallied exactly with Chambers’ definitions appeared. I like that! I liked Lath’s numerous alcohol references too. There’s no doubt that he earned his place in the Listener  Setters’ Oenophile Elite. ‘Possibly local fruit’s not in (7)’ prompted us to think of our local fruit which tends to be grapes, and isn’t anywhere near ‘in’ yet, but we had to remove IN from AUBERGINE giving us our local, which is, in effect, a rather splendid Auberge with first classs wines.

Soon afterwards we found ‘Shrub-like draught to drink (I’m dubious) (6)’ Well, I’d be dubious about drinking a shrub-like draught – better stick to the crosswords favourites, RED and ASTI, but we parsed that as DOSE ‘drinking’ or containing UM, giving DUMOSE = ‘Shrub-like’.

Fortunately there was a ‘Shelf with wine angled in a certain way (8)’ (on its side gathering dust with maturity, I hope, as we decided this was RED on the LEDGE = LEDGERED). Then we had a reverse hidden clue – one that wouldn’t go into the light we had for it, as LEFTY seemed to be fitting into that space at 20d, and LEFTY had to be the solution to  clue 17 (Pink length of yarn wrapping feet (5)) ‘What Newquay only bottles up is drink (5)’ Chambers tells me that NOYAU is brandy flavoured with bitter almonds or peach kernels. Sounds as if Newquay is this week’s Listener destination. Well, cheers, Lath!

The clues that had to be swapped quickly fell. We exchanged DARFUR and SHREIK, CARDIO and OEUVRE, VIGILS and USNEAS and GISARME and ISATINE and our grid was full. TEA unjumbled the initial letters of the relevant clues and gave me EPSOM DOWNS so I feared the ‘Unexpected’ of the title was going to be the suffragette Emily Davison throwing herself under Anmer, the King’s horse (yes, that was the theme of my own very first Listener crossword many years ago) but no, this was a far happier event.

18 was clearly the ‘dummy clue’. ‘Badge pair go in Derby again (4)’ certainly didn’t win ‘Clue of the year’ for its total lack of surface sense and it clearly didn’t lead to the solution YAWN that had appeared all by itself, but I had to do the elementary maths to discover what two names we were looking for, 18 40-1 2017 emerged and, of course Wiki provided the rest, telling us that WINGS OF EAGLES, horse no 18, an absolute outsider, won the 2017 Derby for Aidan O’Brien with Padraig Beggy in the saddle.

There was the horse, tearing up the non-dominant diagonal and FURLONGS had galloped out at us some time before, but we still had to find some semblance of the Epsom race course in 27 contiguous cells.  We were indeed faced with a poser there, as I imagine most solvers were. Which N of TANNIN? Neither gives the gentle curve of the course and I can imagine the fury of solvers who bet on the wrong horse (Don’t you mean letter? Ed.).

But this was beautifully set and great fun. Many thanks, Lath.


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Great news re. EV!

Posted by Encota on 25 June 2020

I was delighted, as will be all here who also have a go at solving the Sunday Telegraph’s Enigmatic Variations puzzles and were very saddened by its planned demise, to have received some delightful news in an email this morning:
Dear EV compilers,

It is with happiness that I am informing you that The Sunday Telegraph has reversed the decision to discontinue the EV series and that the EV series will be continuing.

Steve Bartlett
EV Editor
The only downside I can see is that it leaves me with a few anger-induced anagrams that I had all lined up ready for the end of August and that I’ll never get to use! A small price to pay!!

  • And the relative effect it would have had on newspaper sales:

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L4609: Where Next? by Harribobs

Posted by Encota on 19 June 2020

What a construction – congratulations Harribobs!

With the ‘after cycling’ pun at the start and the complexity of the rest of the Preamble that followed, this looked like it was going to be tough.

Stage 1: The entered clues with ‘most answers initially entered after cycling’

Fortunately most of the clues were gentle, otherwise this would have been particularly taxing!  After filling out almost all of the first grid, I wasted a bit of time by stupidly counting down the columns rather than across the rows and only realised my mistake when the first destination didn’t fit in the circle – a very useful check, by the way!

Having filled in all but the last 30 cells, I am not quite sure how I managed to solve it but it only seemed to take a little bit of jiggling and the missing two places jumped out.  I went along the slightly wrong route to begin with, trying to shoehorn SHEPHERDS BUSH into the gaps … but soon found SHEPTON MALLET, and BUDLEIGH SALTERTON followed almost immediately afterwards.

Stage 2: After re-filling!

Thanks again to Harribobs for a very cleverly constructed crossword!  I still can’t quite see how you did it, which has got to be the mark of an excellent puzzle!

Cheers & keep safe all,                   

Tim / Encota

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Where Next? by Harribobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 June 2020

A tour of Britain, I read, then such a complicated set of instructions, including one to erase my completed grid fill, that I am tempted to throw in the towel, put my bike in the shed and pour a stiff double. Still, I check through the clues to confirm Harribobs’ right of entry to the Listener Oenophile Outfit and find that his clues, at least, get beyond the M25 (which seems to be a limit for rather a large number of crossword setters as far as ‘Britain’ is concerned). He gets to Wallsend, Leeds, Oldham, the Border, A6, St Albans, ‘Wales every now and then’, Luton, the Fens, Hastings and Halesowen (wherever that is). The Irish and Scots amongst us might be slightly miffed but sobeit.

Alcohol? Well, we are told how to get our port. ‘For port, take motorway through Oldham in westerly direction bypassing centre (5)’ We suss that Harribobs is sending us to MALMO for our port. Alcohol is pretty expensive in Sweden (we frequently visit a friend who lives close to Malmo) but ‘Cheers’, anyway, Harribobs.

The grid filled with ease and lucky links early on when DUSTMAN, OUTGAS, JINGO, WALNE, SANTA, INLY and SWANAGE were achieved without cycling, made our initial cycling tour not too strenuous. However, I found that I had to visit THETFORD, EDGWARE, SWANAGE and ST DAVID’S and went onto Wiki to find out where these places were. A stern warning appeared that ‘Owing to Corona Virus, travel restrictions may apply’. It was worse when Harribobs made that token visit north of the border to GLASGOW. “Is your journey really necessary Mr Harribobs?” I heard a reminiscent little wartime voice muttering. (At least he avoided Durham and Barnard Castle and having to face a Cummings-style witch hunt.)

The other Numpty (the Irish Glaswegian) had done his share and solved most of the clues so disappeared to cook the supper and left me to erase my grid and perform my cycle tour via the letters of the across clues doing those mathematical calculations each time. Yes, I managed to miscount more than once and landed on a cell I had already filled and had to backtrack – rather like our usual numerical performance (Ed. No, I assure you, this is a verbal crossword). However, I finally got to the outskirts of St David’s and with 30 empty cells had to get out my map. Where Next? indeed.

We had meandered around the south of England. I gather that there is a St David’s at the tip of Wales as well as the Exeter one, and there had been that rather surprising visit to Glasgow (I suppose that is north for a southerner though a Shetlad friend once told us that she had had to go south once and had visited Aberdeen!) so I guessed that our remaining cells were going to take me somewhere interesting like Stornoway or Limerick – but it was not to be.

After an immense struggle I reached WHERE? SHEPTON MALLET and BUDLEIGH SALTERTON. (The other Numpty commented  that this is probably a Covid 19 ‘Staycation’ prompt for those of us who have always felt an irresistible urge to explore the exotic vistas of Shepton Mallet and  Budleigh Salterton – so on my bike. Thank you, Harribobs. We do wonder how you managed to create first the cycled grid and then that astonishing compilation with the numerically spaced words.

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Listener No 4609: Where Next? by Harribobs

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 June 2020

Harribobs is a fairly new kid on the block, but has had puzzles published in all the major thematic series. What’s more, this would be his fourth Listener in just over two years, the previous one requiring a major colouring exercise to depict the flags of twelve countries. No such artistic works here, but quite a long preamble instead.

On first reading, “tour of Britain” and “cycling” immediately brought to mind the Monty Python episode featuring Mr Pither (as in Brotherhood but with P-I instead of B-R-O and no HOOD). He was on a cycling tour of North Cornwall although most of the places where he fell off his bike were in Devon and Somerset. Time would tell where Harribobs would take us.

As the preamble said, most of the entries were entered in cyclic fashion with the across clues in an order that would prove useful later on. The clues were a bit tricky in places, and there were some unusual words for me like AMOMUM, FANGOS and BLAER. My favourite clue was probably 28dn Dickens’s name arises, he of many gifts? (5) (SATAN with N moved upwards).

The five wordplay-only destinations were the last five across entries and required us to start on the south coast (SWANAGE), head into London (EDGWARE), bomb up to Scotland (GLASGOW), back down to Norfolk (THETFORD) and then cross over to Wales (ST DAVIDS). Where Next?

Getting another copy of the grid, the first letter of 14ac (the first clue printed) went in the top left square with every following letter in the printed order of clues going n letters forward, where n was the value of the letter just entered. (Understood?) I only had to go back to the beginning once after ending up on an occupied square; I suspect others had a few more mishaps!

So where next? Luckily we were given the square with the fourth letter of the first destination. I wondered if Harribobs originally withheld that help. It took a few tries before I tried SHEP, which worked, and SHEPTON MALLET immediately came to mind. It was enjoyable finding that it could be entered in the grid’s empty squares. Shepton Mallet is a town in Somerset. BUDLEIGH SALTERTON came next, and that is a town in Devon.

So we were following Pither’s somewhat wayward ride round Cornwall after all! Thanks, Harribobs.

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